Far Niente Cabernet Sauvignon Cave Collection
Benson was the uncle of American impressionist painter Winslow Homer and a "forty-niner" – he travelled to California in 1849 during the California Gold Rush that saw a huge influx of people into the region. Benson bought land in Oakville and had a gravity-flow winery built and vineyards planted. The estate was profitable until Prohibition (1920-1933) caused the winery to be abandoned.
In 1979 Gil Nickel bought the winery and adjacent vineyards and began to refurbish them. The Benson name was kept until the words "far niente" were found inscribed in stone at the front of the winery – part of the Italian expression il dolce far niente or 'without a care'. A red wine made from Cabernet Sauvignon and a white wine made from Chardonnay are the only wines produced, and the first vintages (1979, ’80, ’81) were vinified offsite until the restoration was completed in 1982.
The winery is now on the National Register for Historic Places. In 1998 a bottle of Far Niente Sweet Muscat from 1886 was discovered in a private California cellar. The bottle looks to be the oldest intact bottle of Californian wine, and the label is believed to have been illustrated by Winslow Homer.
There are several vineyards in the Oakville appellation that provide grapes for the Far Niente wines. The Martin Stelling vineyard provides fruit for the Cabernet Sauvignon, and bounds Heitz Cellar's famous Martha's Vineyard, as well as Harlan Estate. Fruit for the Chardonnay comes from several vineyards in Coombsville, a cooler area just east of Napa town.
In 1989, Gil Nickel founded Dolce, a California winery focused entirely on dessert wines blended from botrytized Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, in a Sauternes style. Several other sister wineries have since come into being including Nickel & Nickel, Enroute, Bella Union and, most recently, Post & Beam Winery.
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